I've used every style of loom there is, but once I met the rigid-heddle loom I found my muse. She's accessible, portable, versatile, and so easy to set up that she allows me to iterate through my ideas quickly making it more likely that I will remember my head smacks and be less likely to repeat them.
This column is for knitters (and other fiberists) who weave or want to; knitters who will appreciate the speed at which you can crank out cloth, use up your stash, and teach your yarn to do new things. The gross motor movements of weaving are a nice break from the intimacy of knitting without sacrificing the feeling of handwork.
To the loom, knitters, to the loom!
The Final Touch
There are perhaps as many ways to finish your fabric as there are to begin. I love the handwork involved in creating a line of hemstitching or making a decorative knotted fringe almost as much as I enjoy making the cloth itself.
For some folks their love of weaving is just that — they love the act of passing the shuttle back and forth and placing the weft. Warping and finishing aren't in the same bucket, but they are as much a part of weaving as the middle part. As a huge fan of plain weave I often put all my fancy work in the finish. Here is a short primer on finishing strong.
The first finish that most learn are the knot tying variety. Knotting is worked off loom after the project is finished.
To keep the yarn in place it is a good idea to weave a header with scrap yarn. This keeps the weft from moving around while setting up for finishing. Meet a few of my favorite finishes, starting with the overhand knot.
After the work is removed from the loom (see Washing below for more info on removing the cloth from the loom), place the work on a flat surface. You may need to place a weight on the cloth to keep it from moving about. Using embroidery scissors, carefully cut the header in half and remove half the scrap yarn. Decide on the groupings you want to tie off, making a plan for odd numbered groupings.
Working from the outside in, tie overhand knots loosely snugging them up to the edge of the weaving.
Once you have tied all you knots, go back and tighten the knots adjusting as necessary so they line up neatly.
This is just the tip of the knotting iceberg. One more adventures step is to work another row of offset knots. Take half of one knotted group and tie it to half of its neighbor. Shown here is a sample made with a cotton carpet warp and Fortissima Socka in Mexiko colorway. This is a weft faced fabric woven so that you only see the weft yarn.
Macrame is also a nice option if you want to find finishes that mimic your structure as in this honeycomb example made in Classic Elite Firefly.
Twisted Fringe Another classic weaverly finish is the twisted fringe. It is worked by taking an equal number of warp ends in both hands and firmly twisting each bundle separately to the left and then placing them together and firmly twisting them back to the right. Secure the twist with an overhand knot.
Stitching on the loom
An alternative to knotting is to secure your weft in place while the work is still on the loom. This is the most common on-loom stitch. It create a nice clean finish with an open fringe. It is very secure and a good choice if you plan on trimming 1 inch or less. These stitches allow you to remove your cloth from the loom and go right to the washing stage; no additional finishing work is needed.
To set up for stitching: Weave a header. Begin your project leaving a tail about 4 times the width of your project. Weave about 1 inch and then thread the tail though a tapestry needle. I prefer a crook-nosed (a.k.a. bent-tip) needle.
Decide on the number of warp and weft ends you want to work. They don't have to be the same number. In this example, I am working over 2 warp ends and 2 weft picks.
Start by securing the edge by wrapping it twice with the needled and working yarn. This forms your first horizontal stitch. The stitch is worked in two steps, shown here with 6 stitches already worked.
Insert your needle on top of the desired number of weft picks, in this case 2. Exit the needle at an angle under your desired number of weft picks and warp ends. This forms a vertical stitch on the front and an angled stitch on the back.
Pull the needle and thread through and then encase the two warp ends behind the working thread.
Keep working the stitches until you have reached the end of the cloth. Needleweave the tail back into about an 1 inch and trim the working yarn to about 2 inches. Wash the fabric before trimming the tail flush to the cloth.
The “wrong” side of the work will have angled stitches and “right” side will have straight. There is more than one way to work this stitch. This is how I do it, and I'm told that I do my stitching upside down and backwards, just like many other aspects of my life.
Another stitch that works up faster than hemstitching is the chain or embroidery stitch. It is slightly less secure and a perfect choice for fringe that is 1 inch or longer or to secure the work quickly if you plan on hemming.
To work the stitch, form an open tensioned loop with the working yarn and place the needle under your desired number of ends – in this case 2. Thread the needle over the bottom curve of the loop. Pull the loop tight and continue working in this manner across the warp. Keep the yarn under moderate tension at all times.
All woven cloth should be wet-finished to fully settle into itself. While your fabric may seem less than perfect when you remove it from the loom it will all come out in the wash.
Yarn manufacturers put the most conservative washing instruction on their yarn labels. Most will instruct you to handwash. I have found that many yarns will hold up to machine washing on the gentle cycle and even benefit from it. Where you have to watch most carefully is the fringe. Singles, softly plied, many plied, or blended yarn tends to fray. The only way to know for sure how a new yarn will finish is to sample. See Deep Fall's Get Warped Column for tips on sampling.
For some yarns where I know the fringe is a bit iffy, I'll leave the fringe long and machine wash on gentle to give it a good finish. Then trim the fringe to a little bit longer than what I like and handwash in future. This keeps the fringe from raveling and the extra length allows me to trim more if needed.
To prepare the cloth for washing first remove it from the loom. I typically cut the fabric from the loom behind the rigid heddle. I always untie from the front so I don't risk cutting an apron cord. (The day I wrote this I cut a piece from the loom in the front and, yes, cut an apron cord.) Remove the header and do all finishing work before you wash. Trim any tails to about 2 inches so they don't snag in the wash. I leave my fringe long and trim it to length after washing.
Most accessories and luxury fibers such as silk or cashmere I handwash. Soak the fabric in lukewarm water with either a mild or no rinse detergent for 20 minutes. I often do this in the bathtub where I can lay the whole project out flat. Rinse gently. Roll the project in a towel and press to remove excess water, don't wring. Dry flat on a clean towel. Trim fringe to desired length.
Machine Wash Gentle Cycle
The secret to machine washing is to know thy machine. They are not all created equal. In my machine, I wash on gentle for wools that I want to full or felt. Sometimes it will take more than one cycle to get the look I want. Some wools I air try for 10 minutes or so to get them to fluff up. Experimentation will get you surprising (and sometimes unwanted) results.
General instructions for machine washing on the gentle cycle are as follows: machine wash on the gentle with mild detergent. Occasionally, I'll add fabric softer if the fabric doesn't need to be scoured, but rather softened. Either lay flat to dry on a clean towel or tumble dry on low. Trim fringe to desired length.
Machine Wash Regular Cycle
I use the regular cycle for most kitchen and table items and projects made with linen or hemp that benefit from a rougher finish. To do this machine wash on the regular cycle with a mild detergent. Tumble dry on low. Press immediately if necessary. Linen in particular benefits from a good hot press while the fabric is still a bit damp. It will bring out the shine. Trim the fringe to desired length.
To date, I've walked you through setting up the loom , selecting yarns , designing fabric, and finishing strong and offered a few first projects to get you started. I'll be joined in the News Year by a few fellow weavers who will offer your loom some tempting fair.
I'm working on a new book for foodies on weaving for the home. You can follow along on my Instagram feed.